The Witness

August 12, 2004 at 9:23 pm | Posted in Emotions | 2 Comments

(for Barbie, August 16, 1997 – August 6, 2004)
August 12, 2004

�The more people I meet, the more I like my dog better.�

In hindsight it was a long time coming. Barbie had been in and out of a bad cough for the past few weeks. Best as we tried to medicate her, there was just no stopping the inevitable spread of the virus inside her lungs.

Barbie came into our lives at a particularly bad time in my life. I was in college; we had been living in a studio type apartment somewhere in Antipolo that was no better than a box with a roof over it, and my mom and I couldn�t always make ends meet with her social security and my scholarship at hand. It was a time when at one point we didn�t even know where we would get our next meal.

In one of those instances when we got our hands on some extra cash, mom zoomed off to Escolta and brought home this thin, brown-furred puppy with a particularly long nose, pointy ears and short tail. A half-breed, she had said back then, and I got her for only three hundred pesos, she explained.

What should we call her, my mom asked. I said let�s call her Barbie, because she�s a gurrrrl! It was the first time I had a girl pet dog and Barbie was a playful tease who would chew on the bed sheet and keep scratching the floor. It was cute even though pesky.

One time I even put her on the bed and she jumped and hurt her leg and she was shrieking for a full ten minutes before she stopped despite my pleadings and soothing pats on her back. It was one of those moments when I truly felt like there was another creature on this earth who really, really needed me. It was nice for my ego, even if it�s ridiculously funny to look at it that way.

When the puppy got older we kept her in the dirty kitchen area, once time had moved on and I had found a job that could pay for an apartment that actually had a dirty kitchen. We got her a dog house when we moved to Tandang Sora two years ago because she had gained so much weight and was getting harder and harder to carry.

But for seven brief years Barbie was a constant fixture of my home life. She wasn�t just our pet dog. She was a companion, a trusted housemate who made us feel safe at night when the lights are out and I would be dreaming about lovers and far away lands.

Sometimes I would go home troubled and weary, with no one to talk to, least of all my mom. Whether it was another heartbreak, or some problems at work, or whatever, I wouldn�t normally tell another soul, because that�s just not me. I don�t easily tell anyone what my problems are. I�ve always been of the opinion that nobody will solve my problems except for me, so why even bother telling anyone?

But sometimes when things get too heavy for me, I would break down but only when there is not another human being in sight. A lot of times I would do so in front of Barbie, who would look at me and wag her tail as if telling me that �Hey, the world doesn�t understand you, but look, you still have your pet dog around. I have no idea in hell what you�re saying or what you�re doing but I�m always here.�

Barbie was a witness to my highs and my lows. And by human standards, she didn�t judge me, because the truth is, she couldn�t care less.

People would say that there is really no need to feel so sorry over a dead dog. After all, people die on a daily basis and the world keeps going around. Surely, the death of an animal who doesn�t talk human language could never amount to a hill of beans.

But that�s just it. Dogs do not speak our language. But they speak to our hearts.

Barbie was not a perfect pet dog. There have been times in the past when she�d be spreading her shit around � literally. There were times when she would not eat her food unless it�s got meat in it. There have been times when she would not stop barking at people even after they�ve left. How I hated her when she�s noisy and stubborn!

And she has this weird habit of barking non-stop unless I sat beside her or took her inside the house every time it rained. Barbie was as afraid every time it rained as I was happy every time it did. She was silly that way. Or maybe she was right all along. The rain can hurt you.

Because after having been kept in a doghouse all these years, and after being partly exposed to the elements, she contracted pneumonia.

We thought she�d gotten better with time, but last Friday it got worse. I had been out all night, getting drunk again and pouring my heart out to a friend about everything that has been bugging me since I was three years old. When I got home, I was too tired to even touch her nose, sticking out, as it was again, from her dog house. I just wanted to sleep.

But at around 4 am, I heard her let out a moan that was obviously a cry of pain. I got out and checked on her and she was lying down but her chest was rising up and down, and she showed signs of difficulty in breathing. I went into the kitchen to get her some water, and when I got out, her head was stuck between the bars of her wooden doghouse. Me, my mom and my brother worked quickly to tear down the bars so we could get her head free.

Once we had her free, her head just slumped and she kept on taking short, deep breaths with her mouth open all the time. Then she let out a deep, guttural moan and threw up. I touched her head and she didn�t respond. I gently touched her right feet and let go, and it just laid flat on the floor of her doghouse.

It was a long, starless night.

Funny, but my mom tried to react like I was again the immature 19-year-old bunso that I was when we got Barbie. We�ll get another one, she said, and under my tears, I said no, I don�t want to ever take care of another dog, ever again. I told myself it was just too painful to see them die, especially right in front of you.

Barbie�s time with us wasn�t all roses. As she got older and as we found it more difficult to find apartments who would accept pet dogs, we thought that somehow she had become a burden.

But the bottom line is, Barbie was loyal and honest. She knew who her master was. She never failed to wag her tail at me every time I came home. She�d stick her nose out through her dog house and make that excited sound that lets me know how much she�d missed me after being gone for most of the day.

When she�s upset because I got mad at her, she�d lie down and turn her head away from me, and I could never resist her and I�d pet her to let her know she�s still my most favorite dog in the world.

But the fact that she died on a night when I had, for the very first time, let out all my secrets to a friend is not lost to me. And it got me thinking. Did my witness knew? Did my witness sense somehow that I had found the strength to let another person know who I really am?

If she did then maybe Barbie had served her purpose. Maybe Barbie knew it was time for her to go, since for the first time in my life I had been able to confide a lot of the secrets I have been keeping all my life to another human being. The brutal truth is that I have no more use for a witness. She�s done her part.

Maybe Barbie knew she need not keep up the fight with her lungs anymore since she doesn�t have to watch me cry from now on.

But still, the transition from putting my trust from a dog to fellow human beings is not that easy. People either hurt you, or they cannot console you because they are so wrapped up in their own problems. Dogs on the other hand, deal with you as they come into your life, and never expect you to change.

But that�s having it easy. Dogs have no choice. They depend on you for their own life. And I guess that�s the challenge Barbie�s demise left me. Though I miss her, I guess I should get on with the complexities of my human relationships. Dogs are easier to handle than people, but if life were supposed to be easy then maybe we should all be dogs instead of being bitches with each other.

It�s just weird that as I write here at the Akbayan headquarters, Suzette, the office dog is lying down on the floor and watching me. Does Suzette know that I am writing about my own friend, someone of her own kind?

Dogs. Lovely creatures of whoever is up there. Even though they cannot take the place of human beings, in a lot of ways they are still better than some of us.



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  1. hi vince, just dropping by. kamusta? tagal na rin tayong di tayo nagkikita. i’m sorry to hear about barbie 😦

  2. Hi Mimi! Thanks. I’m okay now. So sorry I have been remiss lately. A little shakedown in the work department going on, but I’m still surviving. 🙂

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